1. Join the Small Plate Movement Serve your food from smaller plates and bowls. A three ounce serving on a 12-inch plate looks small, but the same serving on a 10-inch plate looks larger. An April 2005 study titled “Super Bowls: Serving Bowl Size and Food Consumption,” published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that when people eat from larger plates, they consume more food. In the study, the people who were given large bowls took 53% more food than the people who had smaller bowls. 2. Sleep at least 7 hours a day The obesity rate in 1960′s America was about 12%, a time when people slept an average of 8.5 hours a night. Today, in 2011, obesity is around 30% and people sleep from 6.5 to 7 hours. This is not coincidence. When you sleep six hours or less before starting your day, your tired body craves sugary or high carbohydrate foods to replace the energy it lacks. Doctors from the University of Chicago studied two hormone levels, ghrelin and leptin, in 12 healthy males while monitoring the men’s appetites and activity levels. When the men received less sleep their leptin levels decreased and ghrelin levels increased. Their appetites were significantly larger, resulting in a 45% increased demand for carbs and other high-calorie foods. Give your body enough rest to help avoid cravings for such foods. 3. Walk, Jog, Bike or Run Whichever exercise(s) you choose, exercise smart instead of hard. Walking reduces “bad cholesterol”, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) while increasing “good cholesterol”, high-density lipoprotein (HDL). It lowers blood pressure and can even improve your mood. Jogging, running and bicycling are high-impact exercises. There is no need to push yourself like a tri-athlete to see the benefits. Start with a few minutes of stretching and then do your chosen exercise at least 3 days a week. Increase the length of your workout over time, as well as the number of days per week you exercise. 4. Eat chicken without the skin The skin has the most calories on a piece of chicken. Did you know 30% of chicken skin is fat? A single, small piece of chicken (1/8″ x 1.5″ x 2″) contains 13 calories, half a gram of fat and 2 grams of protein. Remember that the number of calories in chicken depends on how it is cooked. Chicken that is cooked in its own liquid has more calories than chicken that is cooked in a way allowing for the liquid to drain off. 5. Eat your favorites instead of abandoning them Rewards are an important aspect of dieting. Simply telling yourself, “No more sweets!” isn’t going to help you lose weight. For example, if you are leaving three favorite junk foods or candies out of your diet plan, set aside a day when you reward your efforts by eating one of those three foods absent from your diet. A sensible serving will not harm your progress. 6. Avoid coffee creamers Single servings of liquid creamers, like Half & Half, contain 20 calories each. Table cream contains even more, with about 29 calories. The powdered varieties contain fewer calories; regular powdered creamers have 16 and “light” substitutes have 13 calories. Nearly all creamers contain 1-2 grams of fat, with the exception of light powdered creamers, which have about a half a gram of fat. 7. Eat spicy foods According to Penn State’s Associate Professor of Biobehavioral Health, Sheila West, PhD, the spices cinnamon, turmeric, paprika, garlic powder, oregano and rosemary benefit the metabolism. Her team studied six overweight but healthy males, ages 30 to 65. After one week of normal food, then a second week of spicier alternatives, the men’s insulin and triglyceride levels lowered by 21% and 31% respectively. Although the sample size of participants was small, the results are prompting other researchers to pursue larger studies. 8. Reduce your stress level Hormones, like adrenalin and CRH, release when you’re too stressed, decreasing your appetite for a short time. This is known as the “fight or flight” response, but when the stressors are events that you can neither fight nor flee from, you eat more. Shawn Talbott, PhD, author of “The Cortisol Connection” points out that since we aren’t physically fighting our way out of danger, we’re not releasing the calories we would otherwise. Most stressors in 21st century first world nations, he says, leaves us “to sit and stew in our frustration and anger…” Identify the source(s) of stress and either eliminate or reduce them. Stop watching 24/7 news coverage of worldwide atrocities. Don’t let disagreements turn into arguments. Take a walk, swim, jog, listen to music, play a game… do anything – except overeating, obviously – to reduce your stress level. 9. Choose actual fruits over fruit juices Unlike chicken skin, which contains 30% of the fat that poultry has, edible fruit skins contain most of the nutrients of the fruit. Among these are: blueberries raspberries strawberries prunes plums grapes raisins pears apricots figs apples Most juicing processes actually remove these skins, reducing the nutrients significantly. Like the skin, pulp is also a good source of fiber, which is critical for a good diet. Advertisements, especially for orange juice, claim that pulp is added to the juice. While that is true in some cases, the pulp has to be “added” because it was removed in the juicing process to begin with. Whole fruits always contain more nutrients than their processed derivatives. 10. Use salads as appetizers A salad is not just a healthy choice, it reduces your appetite for the more calorie-dense meal that follows. Eat any kind of salad before a calorie-rich meal so you will consume smaller portions of the main dish. This will help increase your stock of leftovers, which you can eat later, or give to a family member, friend, or a diet buddy. Dieting does not have to be a nightmare of consuming bland foods, swearing off treats forever, and becoming irritable over major sacrifices. Eat good foods on smaller plates, lower your fat intake, burn some calories, sleep well, and reward yourself with your favorite treats. Dieting can be a fun experience enjoyed either on your own, or shared with friends.
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